This is a deeply savoury thing, a kind of sole meunière given extra punch by anchovies, capers and rosemary. It’s a robust sauce that can happily be turned to the service of other flatfish, including cheaper offerings, such as megrim and dabs, that occasionally find their way onto the fishmonger’s slab – though you will need to adjust the cooking time to suit their size. The flavours would also work well with cod, hake, monkfish and the like. Baby potatoes and wilted spinach or a simple tuft of dressed watercress would be good accompaniments.
Serves 2 (or 4 small appetites)
2 whole lemon sole (about 400g each), cleaned and descaled
1 small lemon
60g unsalted butter, plus 4 tbsp extra
5 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped
½ clove garlic, crushed
Leaves from ½ small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp capers, well drained
A pinch of cayenne
2 handfuls chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6
Using kitchen scissors, carefully cut around the edge of the fish to remove the frill. Snip off any remaining fins.
Slice the ends from the lemon and place the fruit upright on a board. With a sharp knife, carefully cut down around the sides, following the curve of the fruit, to remove the peel and white pith, so you are left with just the rugby ball of juicy segments inside. Slice either side of the dividing membranes to remove the segments. Discard any pips and membranes and roughly chop the segments.
Take a large roasting tin and tip in 100ml water (or use 2 smaller trays and add 50ml water to each). Place the fish in the tin(s), dark skin upwards, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Put a couple of tbsp of butter on each fish.
Place in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the skin peels easily from the tail end and the flesh is opaque and white near the bone at the thickest point (cut a small slot to check – there should be no pink).
While the fish is cooking, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Let it simmer until the bubbling subsides a little and the butter turns golden brown and nutty-smelling. Don’t let it burn. Quickly stir in the anchovies, garlic and rosemary and remove from the heat. Mix in the lemon pieces, capers, cayenne and most of the chopped parsley.
Transfer the cooked fish to large plates or a serving platter. Carefully peel off the dark skin, starting at the tail end, to reveal the white flesh underneath. Spoon the flavoured butter over the fish, sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.